Smart Pricing

Last year, the Australian men’s volleyball team hosted three other countries in a round-robin tournament in Canberra, the winner qualifying for the World Championships.

Fans were charged $20 to attend one night of these qualifiers, watching two games between Australia, Kazhakstan, Kuwait and Thailand. When I attended on the Friday and Saturday, I found almost half of The Palace – hardly a massive stadium –covered in black mesh so that people couldn’t sit in the seats. This forced those few people present to sit closer together, enabling the occasional camera angle to suggest a relatively reasonable crowd was in attendance.

But check out the Aussies’ team photo taken on court right before their first match. My folks and I are actually behind the team, literally the only three people sitting in an otherwise empty stand at the end of the court. So much for President of Volleyball Australia Craig Carracher’s encouragement for “volleyball fans from all over Australia to descend on the nation’s capital to show their support for what will be a spectacle of athletic prowess.”

But at least the cost was reasonable. Two matches for $20 seemed appropriate, especially when Australia’s most highly ranked opponents would be Thailand and Kazakhstan, tied in the rankings at 48.

This week, the Australian Volleyball Federation released the ticket prices for Australia’s World League games.

The World League is Volleyball’s annual showcase of many world’s best teams. This year, the FIVB have decided to expand the World League, so that there is a Division 1 – 8 teams, 5 of whom will qualify for the finals – and a Division 2 – 12 teams, 1 of whom will qualify for the finals. Australia are playing in a 4-team pool in Division 2.

In their first weekend of matches on home soil, Australia plays Finland in Canberra – once on Saturday and once on Sunday. A ticket for one of these matches will cost $35.

Hold on. $35?!? They couldn’t get more than a handful or two of people to pay $20 for two matches of the final round of World Championship qualifiers, and yet the AVF expect people to pay $35 for one match against a team who is still only ranked 30th in the World?

And hold on. The $35 doesn’t even include the booking fee?!?

It costs the same amount to see the Aussies play Canada – ranked 11th – in Sydney a few weekends later. If you were a Canadian, though, and wanted to see the Aussies play Canada when they meet in Edmonton, you’d be charged $35 – including the booking fee – for a baseline seat to both of the matches on the weekend. Yep, in Canada they get to watch twice as much volleyball for the same price we’re being asked to pay in Australia.

And what a price it is.

Let’s break it down. For Mrs EPO and I to watch one match of volleyball, it would cost us $70. At worst, it’ll be over in 3 sets – each set costing us just over $23. At best, we’ll see 5 sets with each set costing us $14. Comparing this to the World Championship qualifying experience, where for $40 we were guaranteed to see 6 sets at under $7 a piece, is hilarious. At best, we’re paying twice as much per set this time around. At worst, it’s almost six times as much.

Do the AVF really expect people to come rushing through the doors when so few came the last time the Volleyroos were in town?

For $39, I can score a ground pass to a day of the Australian Open tennis. That’s a day’s tennis that starts at 11am and ends whenever the match on Margaret Court Arena that starts at 7:30pm finishes that night. Sure, you don’t get to see the matches that are on the two main courts, but you certainly have the opportunity to see those ranked outside the top few –you’ll absolutely see players ranked more highly than Australia (14) and Finland (30) are in volleyball. Oh, and you get to choose between matches being played on 14 different courts. Oh, and did I mention that it is an internationally renowned sporting event that people travel from overseas for the chance to experience?

For $35, I can score tickets to two AFL games at the SCG. With $7 change left over. I could score the cheapest ticket to the most expensive AFL game of the regular season at the MCG. With $10 left over.

I’m sorry. I must stop here. For I’m letting my anger get the better of me when actually my more prevailing emotion should be a mixture of sadness and disappointment.

When I was at high school, I was a volleyballer. As such, when the World Championship qualifiers were on last year, I expected to see a bunch of old mates in the crowd. But none of them were there. Practically no-one other than the families of the players and a bunch of touring athletes staying at the AIS attended. Very few people around town knew it was on, including local club players.

When the Olympics came to Sydney, I attended many days of the volleyball. Tickets for two-match sessions cost $19. I was one of those guys who would chat to those around me, often spending time teaching them the rules and intricacies of this sport that I had come to love.

When I heard that the World League – even if it was only Division 2 – was coming to Australia, I literally shouted with excitement. Mrs EPO and I particularly thought that the Sunday afternoon game in Canberra would be a great opportunity to take the 2-year-old to watch his first international volleyball game.

Now, we feel we’ve been priced out of the weekend. And we hate to think how few non-volleyball-people will pony up that kind of cash to attend when so few paid $20 last time around.

As fans of our national team, we’ll still be watching, of course. But I’m afraid to say that they won’t be getting our money. We’ll be cheering them on from the couch instead.

 

Postscript: Sydney is going to play host to the Division 2 Finals of the World League. Bizarrely, one’s $35 ticket will provide entry to two matches – either the two semis on Friday, or the two Finals on the Saturday. While this is a much better deal for fans, it only goes to show how ridiculous it is to ask people to pay $35 to attend just one of the preliminary matches.

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